Lawsuit Abuse Fortnightly #7-22

Published December 1, 2008

It’s Hard to be Humble

“We are the most important people in America,” plaintiffs’ lawyer Gerry Spence told a California lawyers’ group. “There is no other profession in America that fights for freedom, that fights for what America is about, that fights for justice for ordinary people.”

“I want to ask you which would be more important: If all of the doctors in the country somehow disappeared or all the trial lawyers in America somehow disappeared?” he asked. “We can live without medical care, but we cannot live without justice.”

Spence spoke to 500 lawyers attending the annual conference of the Consumer Attorneys of California, which awarded him the group’s Lifetime Achievement Award. He told the group of plaintiffs’ lawyers to help the poor and the helpless. The conference was held at the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco, where regular rates average about $500 per night.

Source: Chris Rizo, “Spence: Trial lawyers more important than doctors,”, November 12, 2008

Overseas Oversights

Asian institutional investors may be vulnerable to class-action lawsuits for failing to take part in U.S. securities class-action lawsuits, according to a UK class-action consulting firm report. Such investors have “a clear duty” to claim such funds, the report said, but lost out on about $1.5 billion in such suits against U.S. firms for alleged corporate mismanagement from 2000 to 2007. Billions more may be available in the future as the worldwide financial crisis spawns more litigation.

Class-action defense lawyer Paul Karlsgodt of Baker & Hostetler LLP dubs such suits as “nested class actions” at

Source: Sundeep Tucker, “Asians fail to join class action claims,” Financial Times, November 16, 2008, via Point of Law

Ticket Taker

A West Virginia woman is being sued by her ex-husband’s estate for alleging stealing money from him while he was dying of cancer in a hospice. Perhaps the unkindest cut of all is the claim she stole his Pittsburgh Steelers season’s tickets, which she then allegedly scalped. The tickets were to go to the man’s heirs.

The suit seeks compensatory and punitive damages, plus a return of the proceeds. No amount was specified.

Source: Cara Bailey, “Estate sues man’s ex-wife for Steelers tickets,” West Virginia Record, November 13, 2008

Underdressed and Overcompensated

A North Carolina town government has agreed to pay $275,000 to settle a lawsuit for banning a woman from a Friday night town hall dance because “her moves were too risqué.”

Her suit, brought by a lawyer hired for her by the American Civil Liberties Union, alleged violations of her constitutional rights to freedom of expression and equal protection. Witnesses said she wore short skirts with her underwear and “privates” visible, while she mimed sexual intercourse with her partner. Her suit was originally tossed out of court, but the federal Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed that ruling.

The woman said she hopes the settlement will encourage “diversity and free expression by members of the community,” but under the settlement the ban against her “free expression” at the town hall remains in place.

Source: Jon Ostendorff, “Woman walks with $275k in dance hall case,” Asheville (North Carolina) Citizen-Times, November 14, 2008, via

There Goes the Judge

A federal jury in Pennsylvania has found a state court judge guilty of defrauding two insurance companies by lying about and exaggerating his neck and back injuries after a car accident.

The judge received $440,000 from the companies after mentioning he was a judge 115 times in correspondence with them on official judicial letterhead. He could face “decades” in jail but may get a lesser sentence due to his lack of a prior criminal record.

The group Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts hailed the verdict. “One message here is that no matter what one’s position, no one is above the law,” the group said.

Source: Leo Strupczewski, “Former Judge Convicted for Lying About Injuries in Auto Accident,”, November 20, 2008, via the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Institute for Legal Reform

Out of Control

A $2 billion lawsuit against Microsoft, Wal-Mart, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and other defendants, alleging they exerted “brain control” on a Canadian man, can go forward, a Canadian judge has ruled.

The man alleges in his suit “he has been subject to invasive brain computer interface technology, research, experiments, field studies and surgery.” Microsoft’s lawyer called the suit “bizarre” and a “nuisance lawsuit” without any possible scientific evidence to support it. The judge, though conceding the suit is “certainly an unusual one,” refused to dismiss it.

Source: Paul Walton, “Judge hears $2-billion lawsuit against Wal-Mart, Microsoft over brain control,” (Nanaimo) Daily News, November 12, 2008

Big Heads

Many large law firms are headed by “narcissists” with “big ideas, big personalities, big egos, and general indifference to the opinions of others,” a noted legal consultant reports.

“They want to reshape the world to their vision,” the consultant wrote. “They don’t much care if others label them vain and self-centered; they count on the power of their vision and their personal charisma to drive them to the top during periods of great upheaval or change. Their style is at best despotic, and often coercive.”

This leads to instability in the firms as partners and associates go elsewhere, the report states.

Source: Debra Cassens Weiss, “Narcissists with Big Egos Lead Many Law Firms, Consultant Says,” American Bar Association Journal, November 11, 2008

Vanity Fairness

An Indiana woman will get to keep her vanity license plate after filing a lawsuit against the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles.

The plate read “BE GODS.” She meant it as “Belong to God,” she said. The woman had the plate for about eight years but forgot to renew it for 2008. A new state policy bans references to religion or deities. She applied for renewal before the policy went into effect, but the BMV denied it anyway.

The BMV said the new policy is meant to ban license plates that might be “offensive” like “GOD CAN’T” or “GODLESS.” The suit was brought by the Alliance Defense Fund and alleged the ban on religious references is unconstitutional. It was unclear if the suit would proceed.

Source: Jon Murray, “‘BE GODS’ plate is OK, BMV says,” Indianapolis Star at, November 19, 2008

Lawsuit Abuse Fortnightly

Published by The Heartland Institute (312/377-4000), a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization founded in 1984.
Phone 312/377-4000, fax 312/377-5000
Back issues are available online at
Publisher: Joseph L. Bast
Editors: Maureen Martin, Diane Carol Bast

Information on lawsuit abuse can be found on these Web sites:

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